Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dan Noakes skis all 9 of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks

Hi all,

Many of you may remember my story about Donnelly resident Dan Noakes hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail in only 52 days in the summer of 2018.

Considering the HUGE amount of downfall and brush that he had to plow through on the 1,000-mile trail, plus using serious route-finding skills necessary to stay on course -- and having the mental toughness to persevere on a mostly solo adventure -- you know that Dan Noakes is a super strong outdoor athlete!

And he's ambitious! His next big adventure was to summit and ski all nine of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks in one year! He not only skied the peaks, he often skied the most extreme line possible on the way down those mountains! Phew!

To top off the adventures, Dan is super handy with video production, using GoPros expertly in the field, to share some of the most challenging, hard-to-film moments of his journeys with all of us. You can learn more how he climbed and skied each mountain on a separate YouTube episode on Dan's Channel.

Thanks to Star-News writer Drew Dodson and editor Tom Grote for sharing Drew's story, published today, about Dan's adventure ... I have a few quotes to share for perspective below his story.

Peak Performance - McCall man climbs, skies all 9 Idaho peaks over 12,000 feet 

The Star-News

Clinging to a steep snow-covered mountainside near the apex of Idaho itself, Dan Noakes peered down as his fear and self-doubt plunged to the mountain floor in a procession of snow chunks and pebbles.

“I mean, these peaks could gobble you up in a second if they wanted,” said Noakes, 35, of Donnelly. “If the snow fractures or a loose rock gives out, you could just be a goner.”

“They’re almost like a loyal friend that notices your full potential,” he said.

Noakes recently completed a personal quest to climb and ski all nine of Idaho’s 12,000-foot peaks, a feat known to have been completed by only professional skier Mark Ortiz and a few others.

The idea was born in a waiting room at St. Luke’s McCall a year ago as Noakes’ wife was in labor with their first child and he was watching a ski movie that featured Mount Church in Idaho’s Lost River Range, which is home to seven of the nine peaks.

Noakes tackled that peak almost immediately last spring, and within a year, managed to climb and ski all eight others, some accompanied by friends and others alone.

Collectively, the undertaking took Noakes a total of about 80 hours, 92.2 miles of hiking, skiing and bicycling and one calendar year.

Now Noakes is releasing a docu-series on YouTube chronicling each peak. Producing episodes using footage from his trips requires about another 16 hours per peak, Noakes said.

New episodes are released Wednesdays on Noakes’ YouTube channel, which can be found by searching “Dan Noakes” on

Each of the nine peaks offered unique challenges, but the toughest peak for Noakes’ money was Diamond Peak, the last he completed, and on his 35th birthday no less.

Rocky and near vertical terrain covered by a couple inches of fresh snow made finding footholds sketchy at best, even with the use of crampons, or spiked cleat attachments for ski boots, Noakes said.

While walking the tightrope ridgeline, Noakes’ right foot slipped and brought him face to face with the prospect of a 2,000-foot tumble to the mountain’s base.

“The main thing that caught me was my whippet, which is an ice axe connected to the handle of a ski pole,” he said. “That was really scary.”

That experience was the only true close call among all of the peaks, though much of it was a balancing act eerily similar to navigating icy, narrow ridgelines, Noakes said.

“It was a battle of is this intuition or is this fear?” he said. “With each step forward, I said, ‘I think it’s my fear, I’m gonna go for it.’”

That lesson is applicable not only to skiing Idaho’s tallest mountains, but also to the challenges people encounter every day that at first seem too daunting, Noakes said.

“If you just go one step closer, then you find out ‘oh, I can go one step further,’” Noakes said. “And then you keep going and you find out, ‘oh, it’s not as bad as I thought.’”

“You can take that energy and put it somewhere else, whether it’s a relationship or starting a business,” he said.

Noakes is not producing the docu-series for profit, but in hopes that it inspires others to derive self-worth from fulfilling personal goals rather than letting their net worth or career dictate it.

“You come back with a sense of self-confidence and self-peace,” Noakes said. “But I think what a lot of people struggle with is that society doesn’t really reward you for these endeavors.”

Powder conditions made Mount Idaho’s near 50-degree slopes the best of the nine peaks, while Mount Church claimed the title for longest outing at 14 hours and 23 miles roundtrip, Noakes said.

Noakes escaped any falls while skiing or scaling near vertical snow walls, but was forced to drop-trou on top of Donaldson Peak after the urge of nature calling became too much to ignore.

Each mountain ascent was plotted using Google Earth and uploaded to a Garmin GPS device Noakes used to keep him generally on track for each peak.

Noakes owns a local animation company called “Motifize” and is known locally for his pursuit of extreme outdoor activities, including in 2018 when he hiked the 1,000-mile Idaho Centennial Trail.

(c) McCall Star News

This is what Tom Lopez, author of Idaho: A Climber's Guide, had to say about Dan's adventure:

"Just summiting the 12ers in a short period of time is an impressive accomplishment. Doing it in winter-like conditions takes the effort to another level. Skiing down them? The first thought to cross my mind was "wow." The next thought was what a crazy, bold, dangerous challenge. Dan Noakes rocks!"

SS: Which was harder? Tackling the ICT or summiting and skiing all the 12ers?

DN: "I have asked myself that question. They are two different beasts. I would say that the 12ers are scarier because there are spots with high consequences if you fall. Skiing is the same, high consequence if you fall and then are alone out in the Lost River Range. 

"With that said, the ICT is more of a challenge overall IMO. It is longer miles, a ton of bushwhacking, more of a commitment for sure and more endurance because you have to travel 940 miles instead of 90 is what I traveled on the 12ers. This is all my opinion."

SS: Which was tougher mentally, the ICT?

DN: "Oh gosh. Yes I think overall the unknowns and being away alone in the wilderness for so long on the ICT was more mentally taxing. With the 12ers you had the thrill of skiing, which made up for any agony that you felt on the way up."

There you have it! Are you inspired?

Idaho’s 12,000-foot Peaks

1.     Mount Borah: 12,667’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
2.     Leatherman Peak: 12,228’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
3.     Mount Church: 12,201’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
4.     Diamond Peak: 12,197’ – Butte County, Lemhi Range
5.     Mount Breitenbach: 12,140’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
6.     Lost River Mountain: 12,078’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
7.     Mount Idaho: 12,064’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
8.     Donaldson Peak: 12,023’ – Custer County, Lost River Range
9.     Hyndman Peak: 12,009’ – Blaine County, Pioneer Mountains

(All photos courtesy Dan Noakes)

- SS

No comments: